Friday 15 November 2013

Meet Maia Blog Tour and Giveaway

Image: Magda Bojes                                                                     
Today is the last stop on the Meet Maia Blog Tour and Buzz Words is thrilled to welcome Greet Pauwelijn, founder and publisher of New Zealand children's book publisher Book Island. Anastasia Gonis chats with Greet about Book Island and Maia and What Matters. This is an edited version of the full interview with Greet featured in the 1 November 2013 issue of Buzz Words.

There is also the opportunity to WIN a copy of this outstanding book by answering a simple question at the end of this interview.

Welcome to Buzz Words, Greet. Book Island is a fantastic name. Where did it originate?

It refers to the place where I am when I read an extraordinary book. When I'm on my little island, I don't hear, see or smell anything any more (which has proven to be quite dangerous at times). I'm hoping that reading our books will have the same effect on our readers.

How long have you been in publishing, and where and how did you begin?

I've been in publishing for only a year and a half. I'm originally from Belgium where I used to translate Polish literature into Dutch. We moved from Belgium to New Zealand in 2009 and in February 2012 I decided to become a children's publisher. There was a slight difficulty: I wanted to publish in Dutch, while I was living in New Zealand, and as if that wasn't challenging enough, I decided to publish both in English and Dutch translationThe first book I chose was Mr Miniscule and the Whale, a Polish children's classic from 1939, but while working on this one I've published 6 other children's books! It's been a long but extremely interesting journey.

From which languages are your children’s books translated?

All our English titles so far were originally published in Dutch by Flemish publishing houses, while I've published a French and Polish book in Dutch translation. I've also published our first Book Island title, Azizi and the Little Blue Bird about the Tunisian revolution, written in Dutch by Belgian-Tunisian author Laila Koubaa. The illustrator, Mattias De Leeuw, is one of Belgium's rising stars, releasing about 4-5 titles a year. 

Your latest book Maia and What Matters is a deeply moving book about loss, hope, and coming to terms with ageing, all interwoven within the relationship between a child and her grandparents. It’s different to anything you’ve previously published. How did the book come to you?

Maia and What Matters is a book that is well-known in Europe, because of its remarkable story and stunning illustrations. It belongs to the category of children's books that are rather sophisticated in illustration and story. These are the kind of books that my heart goes out to. The illustrations are so beautiful, that you just can't forget them. 

I'd ultimately like to focus on publishing children's literature of this quality and level. I realise that there is only a limited audience for such titles, and therefore I can only allow myself to publish one of these every now and then. When I started off with Book Island I knew I had to wait before I could pull out this treasure.

My kids and I talk a lot about their grandfather and great-grandparents who have passed away and what that means. I believe we shouldn't shelter our children from reality but try to prepare them for inevitable losses and challenges that will come their way. Adults often underestimate what children can handle. During the talks that I give at primary schools I'm always surprised at how mature the children of today are and how well they cope with topics we consider too difficult for them. With titles like Maia and What Matters I'm hoping to make a difference.

The text portrays the deep bond that exists between Grandmother and Maia. They don’t need words to communicate. The illustrations are exquisite and delicate, similar to the relationship between them. Please tell us something about the writer Tine Mortier, and illustrator, Kaatje Vermeire.

Tine Mortier is one of those versatile people who seems to be good at everything she does: she's is a writer, playwright, teacher, book reviewer and editor with a wonderful imagination. She writes for children and adults and her books have been translated into multiple languages.

I deeply admire illustrator, Kaatje Vermeire, whose artwork could just as easily sit in a gallery as well as in the pages of a book. Kaatje's techniques are so labour intensive that she can only illustrate one book a year. She definitely belongs to the group of Flemish illustrators that have taken picture book illustrations to a higher level. Her workshops and master classes at this year's Beijing Book Fair were very popular.

Australian David Colmer translated Maia and What Matters. How did this choice come about?

When I had acquired the rights for Maia, the next step was to find a translator for the book. I initially asked Laura Watkinson, the English translator of our first two books. Unfortunately Laura declined the job, because she was still dealing with some personal losses in her life and didn't feel ready to translate Maia. This shows how much a translator can get involved with the book he or she is translating.

Thanks to an Australian-Dutch colleague of mine, I knew that some of the books written by Annie M.G. Schmidt who's regarded as the Astrid Lindgren of the Netherlands, had recently been translated by David Colmer, an Australian living in Amsterdam. I decided to contact David and soon after we had a long chat on Skype. I didn't realise how famous he was until I started following him on Facebook, where I could see him winning award after award. It was a real honour to work with him. 

Book Island is more than a publishing house to you. Tell us about the extra dimension to your children’s books and what is the hoped for outcome with the inclusion of activities that expand on reading.

With Book Island I also organise events based on our books. For the launch of our first 3 titles in New Zealand last year we built a 5 metre tall skyscraper sandwich made out of recyclable items. I'm always looking for partners who could bring our books to life, no matter how small scaled their projects are.  Inspired by the beautiful dresses Maia is wearing in Maia and What Matters one of the local crafters, Joke Gossey, who's also from Belgium, will add a 'Maia' dress to her Hikkepik children's collection. Next year a Belgian performer and two Polish musicians will tour Belgium and the Netherlands with a performance based on the Dutch version of Mr Miniscule and the Whale. I just love how people get inspired by our titles and create something new.

Do you have long term plans for Book Island and can you share them with us?

My plan is to gradually publish more books each year, from the 6 titles I did in the first year to maybe 12 a year by 2016, and build up an exciting backlist. We started distributing our titles in Australia in November 2012, which is the same time as the launch in New Zealand, but as I didn’t have time to invest in marketing, we're not very well known across the Tasman Sea yet. We’re now working with a new distributor, Dennis Jones, who’s managed to sell more copies of Maia and What Matters in ten days then our sales reps in the UK in one month. Seeing these sales figures I’ve got a huge confidence in our new Australian sales and distribution team.

With this interview Book Island wraps up their highly successful Meet Maia Blog Tour. The response has been absolutely overwhelming. Thanks to the fifteen blogs involved Maia is now known across the English-speaking world. Click here to read the other blog posts. Thank you for travelling with us to Book Island!

Read Buzz Word's review of Maia and What Matters in the post below. For a chance to win a copy of this outstanding picture book answer this question in 25 words or fewer: What did you share with your grandparent/s?

Responses must be sent to vicki  {at} stanton {dot} id {dot} au and received by 5pm ADST on 22 November 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations to Sonya of Victoria for your answer about caraway seeds. A copy of Maia and What Matters will be on its way to you. Enjoy!


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